Subregional Arms Race

NUREMBERG/JAKARTA | | indonesien

NUREMBERG/JAKARTA (Own report) - The German presidency of the European Council is demanding that the states of Southeast Asia agree to EU military interventions. Preceding the March 14 and 15 meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers with their Southeast Asian, ASEAN, counterparts, it was said that last December's termination of European troop deployment in Indonesia (Aceh), is to be understood "in the region" as "evidence" of the "readiness" to engage in new operations. Proclaimed possible targets of EU security policy activities are Myanmar, the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) and piracy. ASEAN is of high geo-strategic significance, because important trade routes cross the territories of several of its member states. The German government is also striving for a stronger position in the region directly bordering on the major power, China. In this region, the competition between the USA, European states and a re-consolidating Russia is becoming more intense. Beijing is also participating in this struggle and seeks to retain its traditional sphere of hegemonic influence.


Southeast Asian military and security policy measures were the focus of the discussions between the EU foreign ministers and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, March 14 and 15, in Nuremberg.[1] The military deployment to the Indonesian Aceh province, which included German troops [2], "could be viewed in the region as evidence that we are well aware of the responsibility and are prepared to offer assistance," declared the head of the EU delegation to Southeast Asia – which is diplomatic circumlocution for the intention to carry out operations on the territories of ASEAN member states, also in the future.[3] The current meeting is expected to finalize a so-called Friendship and Cooperation Agreement between the two international alliances. The Southeast Asian governments are hoping for a minimum of protection from a European projection of power.

Steadily Growing

Berlin and the EU hope to gain politico-military access to the Southeast Asian states through the interventions presently under consideration. They also hope to update cooperation on "security questions," initiated in the 1990s. Since 1994 Brussels has been negotiating the security of Southeast Asian sea routes, within the framework of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).[4] In 2003 the discussions were expanded to the ASEM (Asia Europe Meeting) process.[5] Observers concluded, already back in 2004, that Berlin was preparing military operations in the civil war torn province of Aceh. The tidal wave disaster at the end of 2004, finally provided the excuse for stationing German military (Bundeswehr) units on Indonesian territory, within the framework of a humanitarian aid deployment, later supplemented by the deployment of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), an EU military unit.[6] Cooperation in the field of the military policy has "been steadily growing in the past few years", the Foreign Ministry recently announced.[7] According to reports, European interest is now more strongly targeting Myanmar and the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, as well as having a direct influence on the Southeast Asian military elite (officer training). Measures for combating piracy on the high seas are also being discussed.[8]


The security for four of the world's most important trade routes, that pass through the straits in Southeast Asia, is the focus.[9] 60,000 ships pass annually through the straits of Malacca, alone, carrying approximately a quarter of all goods transported world-wide, including 60 per cent of the Chinese and 80 per cent of the Japanese oil imports. German companies' booming trade with Eastern Asia is dependent upon maritime transport through Southeast Asia as well. Over the past year, German exports to the People's Republic of China rose by 29.6 percent, reaching a value of 27.5 billion Euros. Imports from that East Asian nation increased by 19.4 percent, amounting to more than 48 billion Euros. There was a sharp increase in business with Japan (37.5 billion Euros) and with South Korea (18 billion Euros). The exchange of goods with the ASEAN nations (33 billion Euros), are in part also carried out over the above mentioned routes.

Increase in Freight

Because of the growing density in the flow of trade through Southeast Asian waters, security against piracy on the high seas has become a central concern. As the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) reports in a detailed analysis, the governments of the region have, for a long time, avoided open combat against the plundering of ships, to limit an escalation of violence. "This attitude changed, when, in the 1990s, freight traffic dramatically increased" reports the SWP concerning the export offensive of western nations.[10] The beginning of maritime rearmament coincided with the 1994 ASEAN Region Forum (ARF) with the European Union participating, and its increase matched that of European influence. The SWP reports "The British Lloyds company raised the price of its insurance policies for the Malacca Strait in June 2005, justifying the measure, with the threats of 'war, strike, terrorism and the risks these engender' to the waterway." Shortly thereafter, the three States bordering on the strait (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore) signed an accord, obliging them to more strict "surveillance" of navigation.

Aircraft Carrier

The ASEAN states have been rearming themselves through extensive arms purchases in the prosperous western metropolis. Singapore, for example, bought six frigates in France - according to the SWP a "foundation for a deep-sea fleet".[11] Thailand bought an aircraft carrier in Spain in 1997. Germany is participating with extensive naval supplies to Indonesia.[12] This development of the German government supported rearmament of Southeast Asia gives "the impression of a subregional arms race."


The rearmament of those ASEAN states, with which the German EU Council presidency will soon seek to initiate a Friendship and Cooperation Agreement, is taking place in China's traditional sphere of hegemonic influence. The western powers are making obvious attempts to strengthen their positions in the regions directly bordering on the ascending great power. Thus Washington is using Indonesian personnel, among others, to extend its regional military level of operational preparedness. Moscow announced its entry into the transportation and energy infrastructure of the ASEAN states and seeks to establish a gas pipeline network. The EU is flanking the finalization of a free trade agreement with intensive efforts toward attaining military and security policy advantages.

[1] Die Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) besteht aus den Ländern Indonesien, Malaysia, den Philippinen, Singapur, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos und Kambodscha.
[2] see also Vorauskommando and Konkrete Hilfestellung
[3] Security On The Agenda At EU-ASEAN Meeting In Nuremberg; dpa 12.03.2007
[4] Das Asean Regional Forum (ARF), "ein vorwiegend sicherheitspolitischer Dialograhmen auf Außenministerebene" (Auswärtiges Amt), wurde 1994 gegründet. Ihm gehören Australien, Bangladesh, Brunei, Kambodscha, Kanada, die Volksrepublik China, die Europäische Union, Indien, Indonesien, Japan, die Koreanische Volksdemokratische Republik (Nordkorea), die Republik Korea (Südkorea), Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, die Mongolei, Neuseeland, Pakistan, Papua Neuguinea, die Philippinen, Russland, Singapur, Thailand, Osttimor, die Vereinigten Staaten und Vietnam an.
[5] Das Asia-Europe-Meeting (ASEM), "ein informelles Dialogforum auf politischer Ebene" (Auswärtiges Amt), wurde 1996 gegründet. An ihm nehmen die 27 EU-Staaten, die Europäische Kommission, die zehn ASEAN-Staaten sowie die Volksrepublik China, Japan und die Republik Korea (Südkorea) teil.
[6] see also In the shadow of disaster, Long Term Operation and Aufklärung
[7] EU-ASEAN-Außenministerkonferenz in Nürnberg (14.-15.03.2007); Pressemitteilung des Auswärtigen Amts 23.02.2007
[8] Security On The Agenda At EU-ASEAN Meeting In Nuremberg; dpa 12.03.2007. EU um engere Partnerschaft mit ASEAN bemüht; Mitteldeutsche Zeitung 13.03.2007
[9] Es handelt sich um die Straße von Malakka, die Singapurstraße, die Sundastraße und die Lombokstraße.
[10], [11] Maritime Sicherheit und die Suche nach politischem Einfluss in Südostasien; SWP-Studie S 35, Dezember 2006
[12] see also Ankerland (II)